Into Production

Although the seventies was a time of rapid technological growth in the electronics industry, the first few years of the decade saw Moog Music facing financial problems. After something of a monopoly in the synthesizer market, Moog now had competition from ARP and the fledgling Japanese manufacturers. Whilst the Minimoog had undoubtedly become their bread and butter, the company had a lot of inventory but little capital and were running into trouble. In 1971, Bill Waytena took them over, paying nothing but promising to secure their debts of

 

 

 

more than $ 250,000. Waytena was a specialist in buying distressed companies, building them back up and then selling them on at a tidy profit). He immediately moved the company from Trumansburg to Williamsville and it was here that Dave Luce was brought in to develop the first Moog polysynth. The R&D cost for the development of the Polymoog was high and still climbing after two years but nonetheless, in mid 1975, Waytena was in a position to sell Moog Music at a profit and found a new buyer Norlin. One of the first things Norlin did was to relocate the company yet again, this time to an ex gelatine factory at Cheektowaga in the then rural outskirts of Buffalo (NY).

As the earliest Apollo prototype evolved into the Polymoog concept, it required the designing of a custom IC chip, (the Polycom IC) which back then, in the infancy of integrated circuits was horrendously expensive and landed the company with a hefty bill of $ 100,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walden Avenue, Cheektowaga (1976)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheektowaga Factory (1980) - Dave Luce's van is parked on the right

 

 

 

Getting the prototypes to production involved 300 engineering changes. The control panel configuration went through at least three variants and the keyboard layout was also changed three times. The prototypes, (not to be confused with the earliest 5 octave Apollo design) had a 72 note C to B keyboard as seen in the original Polymoog promo movie, (especially shot for the 1974 NAMM expo) and was the configuration used in the prototypes given out to Chick Corea and Larry Fast amongst others. On the pre-production model, the keyboard had been changed to an F to E and many early promo photos were taken of this particular model including those used in the owners manual (just to add to the confusion). At very the last minute, (due to feedback from the musicians who had been given prototypes) the keyboard received a final change to a 71 note E to D in response to requests for a bottom E to compete with guitarists! This involved yet another expensive tooling change at the factory.

 

 

To curb spiralling production costs, one of the first things Norlin did was to push the Polymoog straight into production, despite Dave Luce's reservations that it was still not ready. This is the main reason why the first models coming off the production line had such an appalling failure rate, (200%) and irrevocably damaged the Polymoog's reputation. Perhaps the other reason is that Luce's design was just too ambitious for the technology available at that time and was simply not capable of living up to his concept.

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Luce & pre-production F to E model (left) and with Tony Marchese (right)